COLIN WOODARD AND I MET ON A CRUISE on the Black Sea in 1997. It was a wonderful place to learn about the problems of our oceans, and as this book demonstrates, Colin did. It is not a pretty story, but it is one everyone should know. The plight of fishers, from Atlantic Canada to the coral- ringed islands of the central Pacific, is our plight as well. When ecologists talk about the connections that bind the life-support systems of Earth together, they're not kidding. Humanity is dependent on the oceans for obvious things, from high-quality protein to recreation. But it is also dependent on marine systems for the relative stability of the world's climate--climate that we count on to allow us to grow enough food for an exploding population of more than six billion people.
The basic problem, of course, is the increased scale of the human enterprise. That does not just mean brute population growth (although there certainly has been enough of that). It's also an ever- increasing impact per person as consumption, especially among the rich, escalates. In the past 150 years, human impacts on the oceans have multiplied more than twenty-fold--about 5-fold because of population growth and about 4-fold due to increased consumption and the use of environmentally malignant technologies and sociopolitical arrangements.
Those impacts are as varied as they are dangerous. Many fisheries stocks are being harvested too heavily, which in itself can inflict more or less permanent damage on populations of economically valuable fishes, as well as on fishing communities. But often the harvesting process harms the marine environment. Trawlers, for instance, drag heavy nets over the ocean floor, in many areas more